Wednesday, June 30, 2021



Not too long ago, my son hit a really bad pothole and ruined a front tire. The pothole has since been repaired at least twice and keeps coming back in that same spot. Potholes are a fact of life on our nation's streets and highways. Here in Oklahoma, you have to constantly be on the lookout or you will hit a tire damaging pot hole every mile or so. I saw a nifty little truck the other day that pulls over a pothole, cleans it out and fixes the pothole mechanically. We need a lot more of these trucks running around. Most of the time I see a truck with a pile of asphalt in it and two guys with a shovel who fill the pothole, tamp it down and move on to the next one. The pothole goes from a hole to a bump at that point. I'd much rather have the small bump in the road!

My son only lives a couple of miles away and I have always sent him on his way from our house with a warning of "Watch out for those potholes!". I say it in jest, but when you think about it, it can be a statement for our journey through life. 

Throughout our lives we encounter potholes along the way. Some life potholes are small and are minor inconveniences such as a dropped coffee cup breaking on the floor, lost or damaged cell phone, the common cold, and other small irritations. Some life potholes are medium size such as a flat tire in an inconvenient place, an appliance that has gone out, a small illness, repairs on the house, and other medium size disruptions. Then, you have the large size life potholes that derail your life such as divorces, bankruptcies, car accidents, house fires, major illness or a family death. The small and medium potholes are a little jarring when you hit them but easily fade into the past. The large potholes are usually life changing. The potholes of life are much like those on the road, they are going to be there no matter what you do. 

My small life potholes have included things like dropping a gallon of milk, running out of gas for my lawnmower in the middle of mowing, dropping my favorite coffee mug and having it shatter in a million pieces, ripping my beltloop on my pants, etc. My medium size life potholes have included a dryer going out a couple of times and having to replace the rollers and belts, air conditioning going out in the heat of the summer, dealing with car repair after a minor fender bender, being bumped from a flight and many more. My large life potholes have been the death of my father in 1993, victim of the Federal Building Bombing in 1995, death of my mother in 2020 and several other deaths of friends and family members.  My wife hit a major life pothole a few weeks ago when she was told she has breast cancer. This one is a big one and all four tires were blown out and there is a lot of damage to repair. Of course, I'm a passenger in this deal but felt the hard impact when we hit this pothole. We will get through it and will get back on the life road again soon. 

The small and medium potholes are all 1st world problems. At least my potholes don't include hunger, abuse, unemployment or lack of housing. I'm very lucky to have suffered through very few large life potholes so far. None of us have a totally smooth ride through this life. We must all avoid the pothole that we can and do the best we can with those that we hit dead on.

The milk, coffee mugs, and pants can be bought again. Things can be repaired or replaced. The loss of friends and family can never be reversed. It is one of the things in life we all have to go through. In one of my last posts I talked about road signs. Wouldn't it be nice if we had some signs warning us about the life potholes! 

What life potholes have you hit in your life? How would you describe your small, medium and large life potholes? As I tell my son, "Watch out for those potholes!".

Friday, June 25, 2021

Books I've Read Lately


In retirement, reading was one thing I hoped to do more of. Reading usually fits in most retirees list of things to do. To sit back, relax and read a good book is always fun. This year I set a goal to increase my reading. I've always loved reading and set my goal to read at least 2 per month. I think I have set the goal to low as I have read 33 so far and have been on a pretty good pace. Here are a few that I have read this year and enjoyed. 

  • Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld.  Very funny stuff. He has put a lot of his comedy bits into this book. I enjoyed it a lot. I saw him in person a few years ago and some of the material is in there. I still got a great laugh.
  • The Rooster Bar and Camino Winds by John Grisham. I enjoy almost everything Grisham writes.
  • The Night Fire, Fair Warning and The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly. I started reading these after watching Bosch on Amazon Prime. After seeing the character on TV is is easy to read these stories and picture Bosch as he works his way through the crimes.
  • Evil Knievel an American Hero by Ace Collins. After visiting the museum I bought this book and enjoyed reading about the life and time of Knievel.
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. An interesting read on how our choices put us on a variety of different life paths. 
  • Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden. I've been interested in the story since watching Narcos on Netflix. The book is interesting but I liked the series better that this book.
  • Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy. I think this is the best one I've read all year. The story is not bad but the clever way this book is written was refreshing. This book got me in two spots where I said "Wait a minute, did I miss something? Do I need to reread that section all over again". I've never seen a book so cleverly written as this one. My daughter read it and had the same reaction. 

I have a lot of books on the shelves waiting to be read. One I really look forward to is Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I loved his book The Martian and look forward to seeing if this one is as good as that. Another one in my soon to be read stack is Treasure Hunter by W. C. Jameson, This interests me do to my metal detecting hobby. I also am eager to read a few books I found at a thrift store by Tim Dorsey. I have never heard of him before I picked these up. The description on the back of Florida Roadkill is "Some of the most wacky villains and situations since Hiaasen stuck a plastic alligator down a stranger's throat and called it Tourist Season". How could I resist a book with that kind of description?

Do you have any favorites from your reading list to share? I'm always up for a good suggestion or two. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Brown and Blue Signs

                       Blue Road Sign    Brown Road Sign

On a recent vacation we had our plans of what highlights we wanted to see and visit. This trip involved a lot of driving between locations on the Interstate Highway system. We have all seen the many signs along the highways and roads of America. Giant billboards trying to entice you into a restaurant, gift shop, retail shop or hotel. Regulatory signs for speed limits, no passing, exits, etc. And then, my favorite, the brown and blue signs. These signs are described below from a Google search.

Blue – Signs that are blue in color are not regulatory signs. Instead, they display services for travelers. These signs are normally found on expressways and highways, directing motorists to where they can find places such as rest areas, tourist sites, hospitals, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, picnic areas, and other services commonly used by motorists.

Brown – Similar to blue road signs, brown signs are not regulatory signs. These signs indicate areas of recreation and cultural points of interest. Brown road signs will mark or give directions towards historical sites, parks, picnic areas, and other recreational areas.

On our last trip, I often spotted the blue and brown signs and contemplated on making little side trips. We saw a brown sign for a Civil War battlefield and off we went. It was miles away from our main route, but I had to go. The problem with these signs on the interstate is they often only point the way. Once you exit you see the next sign that says the site is 75 miles to the left or right. You have to have a lot of spare time in your schedule to get to these places and back to your original route. I'm sure some locations are worth it. But, I'm not driving 75 miles to a boat ramp or camp ground. 

These signs tie into a previous post of "You Never Know 'Til You Go". These are the type of places that you may not have had on your agenda but may well be worth the time and effort to visit. In the past we have stopped at the largest hand dug well, the largest ketchup bottle, historical markers and many other interesting places. You probably have many of these signs in your own city and state and pass them by without a thought. Next time, consider a little detour to see what's down that road!

As road signs are important on any car trip, I think we have similar road signs on our trip through life. We have the billboard signs that say "Go to college", "Join the military" or "Start your career". Then we have the regulatory signs that say "Obey the law of the land", "Be kind to others" and "Love your family".  And finally, we have the brown and blue signs that make life interesting that say "Have a child", "Move to a new city", "Start a hobby", "Take a vacation" and many, many others. Once you exit to one of these life choices you may see that it is on down the road, not in miles, but in time. The "Have a child" sign may say 3 months or 3 years. The "Take a vacation" sign may say 2 days or next year. The "Save and Retire" sign may say 30-45 years. This sign will cause many to get right back on the main road. 30-45 years is so far out there, why save now? Those of us that are retired know that it takes a lot of saving and planning for a successful and comfortable retirement. For those that aren't retired yet, I highly recommend you take that side road to retirement and save early and save often. The good thing is, unlike an actual road trip, you can follow many life paths at the same time. So, stay on the retirement planning path while also enjoying the many other fun side trips in life. 

Don't forget the rest areas along your life trip. Pull in to a rest area every once in awhile, sit at a picnic table, get out a ham sandwich and rest for a minute. Take time to savor the moments and enjoy the trip you have taken so far and daydream about the trip ahead. Happy travels! 


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I Do Not Work Here!


How many of you out there have noticed the lack of service today in the various business segments? You probably are most familiar with the self checkout areas of Walmart. At our local Walmart there are about 2-3 regular checkouts open and about 12 self checkouts open, 6 at each end of the store. Our local grocery store has about 6 or so self checkouts and 6-10 regular checkouts. I don't mind checking myself out if I have 1-10 items. It is much quicker sometimes than waiting in line. But, I do not work here! You are tricking me into working for free. It annoys me, when I have a full basket of great stuff, and a helpful clerk advises me that the self checkout is open and ready. I do not work here! Now these self checkouts are everywhere. The last time I visited Home Depot they had only 1 regular check out and 2 self checkouts. I think they all  should give me a 3% discount for using the self checkout. I would jump in there every time! Or maybe they should make checkouts a contract commission job. Anyone can jump on a checkout and make $2 per person they check out plus tips. You would get a checker who is all smiles and eager to help so they could earn a good tip. You could have an app like Uber and when you are ready to check out, someone jumps off the bench and tells you, on the app, which checkout number to go to for instant service. Sometimes I'm a genius!

Another segment that has lost some service is the restaurant business. We frequent several places in which you have to order at the counter, get your number or give a name, take your glass over to the drink station and serve yourself and then sit down. At most, they call your name or number and lay your food on your table. They don't come back to see if you need a drink refill. Then, when done, they have trash cans and dish bin areas to encourage you to bus your own table. I do not work here! What really gets me, is at checkout they turn the screen to you to add a tip. What the heck! Tip? For what? For me standing here giving you my order, filling my own drink and cleaning my table. You owe me a tip! 

I love a nice restaurant experience. I like being seated and getting a good wait person. The best ones bring me a drink refill once mine is half empty. The worst ones come by when I'm half done and ask if I would like a refill when I have already sucked every last drop out of my drink glass. The best ones anticipate what you might need or at least take a glance at the table and see what I might need. Some of the best restaurant experiences with waitstaff are due to a team mentality where any one of them may stop by and refill your drink or bring you something you request. 

I get tricked to working at Aldi. They make me put in a quarter to get a cart. When I'm done, no matter where I parked, I take that cart back to get my quarter. What a scheme! They trick you into working for them just to get your own money back. Please don't tell Walmart about this little trick! 

Everyone is getting into this trend of having the customer work for free. The airlines have their little kiosk to check into your flight. They are nice and quick if no one else is flying that day, but the last time we flew the line was long to jump on one of the 6 kiosks. Then the 6 stations had to funnel to one actual employee to take your bags. 

Does this all annoy you too at times? What areas have you noticed service declining? 

Time to check the mail. I'm still expecting a small paycheck from Walmart, Aldi and Home Depot for the work I've been doing! 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Going Green

 I like the green movement and the idea of using renewable energy such as solar and wind. I think it is awesome that someone can harness the sun's energy from their rooftop to power their household needs. We currently don't own very many "green" products but the idea interests me. The idea of having a plug in electric car sounds pretty cool and is getting more affordable every year. We now see Tesla cars and other plug in cars more often that we ever have. The only "green" items that I can think of that I own include a battery powered blower and trimmer for the yard. My previous versions of these were gas powered, so I now consider myself someone who is going green. I also have rechargeable batteries I use in my metal detecting hobby. I guess that will prevent a few batteries from making it to the landfill.

There are battery powered lawn mowers that are on the market. I understand that they work great. Even better, would be one of the automated mowers that act as a roomba for your yard. I think those are still pretty expensive at this time.

I tried a compost pile for a couple of years at our last house. I never got it to the point that I was using soil out of it, but at least I tried. Our car is a Subaru and gets pretty good gas mileage. Our truck is a Toyota Tacoma and gets decent mileage for a truck. I say all of that to say that is about the total of my green efforts and I know I could probably do more. I have used a paper straw a few times the last couple of years at various restaurants that have started using them. But, those few paper straws don't cancel out the many, many plastic straws I have also used. Sometimes after eating a fast food meal, I am amazed at the amount of trash one person or one family can produce with just one simple lunch. That area could definitely use some improvement.

Part of the movement is to recycle, reuse and reduce. We do participate in curbside recycling and we love to reuse by shopping at thrift stores. Recycling varies across the country. Some cities are very vigilant in recycling while others have no program at all. We visited Portland, OR a few years ago and the city is one that is vigilant in recycling. The state has a mandate that all cities with a population of 4,000 or more must have a recycling program. I don't think such a mandate exists in most states. While in Portland we heard stories that you could be fined if a recyclable item was found in your regular trash. Now that is serious! If we are ever to get serious about recycling in this country we probably need a national mandate of some sort to get everyone on the same page. One city we lived in charged $3 per month to cover the cost of the recycling program. I have no problem with that at all. 

Some people have embraced solar energy, some do simple things like compost and use rain barrels. Some have built green homes that use ultra energy efficient building materials, appliances, etc to help the environment. Some people have battery powered mowers and electric cars. Some have given up cars and use bikes or public transportation to cut emissions. 

Have you embraced any green practices? If so, what are they and are you satisfied with the products or the actions you have taken?  How about recycling, does your city or state have a good program? 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Travel Momentos

 We all like to travel and see new places and things. Now that we are getting closer to normal, after COVID, we all will begin to travel more. Years ago, I began buying magnets as souvenirs from places we visited. At the time, I had a metal backdrop on my modular desk at work and I would stick them there to remind me of the good memories. When I retired, I boxed the magnets up and found a good spot for them on the back of a metal cabinet in the garage. On our recent trip I added 9 more magnets to my collection. I even have a few pressed pennies that I glued a small magnet to add to the magnet collection. 

Over the years, we have purchased all kinds of cheap items on trips with our kids. Most, if not all of those items are long gone. My kids used to love the gift shops, Indian Trading Posts, and souvenir shops along the way. I still enjoy a trip through the gift shops today. Now I only look for a coffee mug, magnet or a coaster. Every once in awhile I'll indulge in a t-shirt from the area I'm visiting. As I sit here writing, I have a Durango, CO coaster with a steam train sitting on my desk and on my bookshelf is a Cozumel coffee mug, a Chinese horse figurine from Chinatown in San Francisco and a cannon from Ft. Sumter. They are just small items from those places visited but help take me back to those great memories. We always take a lot of photos on vacation and will always have those great memories also. 

No matter where you visit, the gift shop seems to have some of the same items but have just changed the name. Same coffee mug, key chain, pocket knife, snow globe, etc. only the names of the place you are at have changed. This reminds me of some advice I heard on the radio a few days ago. One of the pieces of advice was "Name you kids with one of the common names you see on the key chains, license plates, etc. you see in a the gift shop. It will save you a lot of headaches down the road." Too funny! 

What do you keep from your trips and vacations? Do you have a coffee mug collection, pressed penny collection, magnet collection or other interesting collection commemorating your trips? The pressed penny is the best vacation value on the planet! For 50 cents and your penny you get a pretty cool little keepsake. Plus you get the fun of cranking that penny through the press!